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Probate Dispute Hits The Headlines

A probate dispute has recently made the national press. Paul Hatton explains what the case was about.  

Heather Illott was recently granted a third of her late mother’s estate, which was more than she had been provided for after her mother passed away. Her mother’s will left around £500,000 to animal charities and expressly stated that she did not want her daughter Heather to receive anything at all.

The award of £164,000 to her by the court was made on the basis that she had not been given reasonable financial provision in the will.

“Challenging a will” is often threatened in family disputes after someone passes away. Usually it is on the basis of there being something wrong with the will or it being made under undue influence for example.

It is possible however, to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.  “This piece of legislation has been in place for many years” states Paul Hatton.  “Certain categories of individuals can bring a claim against the estate of someone who has died, if they can satisfy the court that the deceased did not make reasonable financial provision and the deceased should have done so. Generally, it is a relatives and dependants who qualify.   It is also important to note however, that cohabitants (people who live together but not married) may also have a claim against an estate”. These types of claims rest very much on the particular facts and circumstances of the parties involved.

The case report suggests that the award to Heather Illott was made in the context of her otherwise facing poverty with her financial circumstances being very limited.

Will and probate disputes are often costly, protracted and emotional. It is important that claims under the Inheritance (Provision For Family and Dependants) Act 1975 are bought promptly as there are strict time limits much shorter than normal claims. If you wish to investigate a potential claim, you should obtain legal advice at a very early stage.